Ride the Bull 6 took place a few weeks back and this year, like year’s past, was an astounding success. Ride the Bull 6 once again solidified its ranking as the “World’s Largest Kayak Fishing Tournament” with over 700 kayak anglers chasing bull redfish in Grand Isle, Louisiana. Dustin Schouest shares with us his trip to attend Ride the Bull 6.
My knuckles were sliding off the steering wheel, which was making the winding Grand Bois Road much more dangerous to navigate than normal. Fatigue was gripping at my body like a seductive siren. It was the post tourney blues. I was returning home from the world’s biggest kayak fishing tournament: Ride the Bull 6. Located in Grand Isle, Louisiana, this annual celebration and hunt for the largest bull red in Caminada Pass had brought over 700 kayak anglers from all over the country to paddle in the waters off of the island.
This year had been filled with ups and downs, new friends and old, and had provided a fun story for you all to hear. So sit down, grab a beer, and hear my retelling of 2016’s biggest kayak fishing tournament, Ride the Bull 6.
Friday August 14th, 2016
“Mmm mmm! This IS a tasty burger!” I had to quote Pulp Fiction with the juicy, well-seasoned hamburger in my hands. I was at the D&D Diner, affectionately known by us locals as the Double D. Sexual innuendo aside, the food in the place had always been epic. With burgers that make your cholesterol spike and your taste buds explode in pleasure and shakes so sweet that they make your teeth feel like they’re gonna fall out, this place had always been a favorite of mine. Once upon a time, there was a small arcade in here filled with many classics and a rare Nintendo cabinet. Now, it was just a larger part of the kitchen.
Outside my rig was sitting in the sun. A brown Explorer with a black trailer behind it, adorned with a custom painted Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100. On top of the SUV was my pride and joy: my 14 foot YOLO Fisher paddleboard. Made of fiberglass and foam with a polished finish, I had fallen in love with the YOLO Boards and the YOLO lifestyle that comes with them the first time I ever stepped foot on one. The last year’s victor, Kalley LeRoy, had been rocking one of these. Her and her husband Jared were the ones who got me interested in SUP (that’s stand up paddleboard) fishing, but their good friends at Muddy Water Paddle Company of Baton Rouge were the ones who took my paddleboard virginity. I exited the restaurant and got into my truck, making a bee line for the new four lane that would take me to my hotel room in Galliano. Passed Bason’s launch I drove, passed the Walmart I and other Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Clubs have camped out in for tournaments, passed patches of forest and pasture, all the way to the Galliano Inn, my base of operations for the weekend. I opened the door and was immediately impressed: clean floor, no blood on the sheets, and I wouldn’t need to get a UV light to see if the floor was sanitary. My girlfriend Alli showed up soon after. She and I love to attend the tournament, and this year wouldn’t be any different. We hugged, kissed, turned on some classic rock, and began the drive thru Golden Meadow, the Speeding Ticket Capital of the World. After avoiding the local 5-0, we got to the Highway One bridge.
As we crossed and looked at the scarred land, skeletons of boats lost, and shrimpers heading out to sea, I had to reflect on how much this had changed since Katrina. Up until August 29th, 2005, there was only one rough concrete road leading to Grand Isle: Old Highway One. The road, the large Leeville Bridge, and most of the land in the area were taken when that bastard storm rolled in. Once beautiful and lush marsh had given up the ghost to large bays and lakes. When we were younger, all that open water had been marsh, with tranases and bayous through it. What was left was like the hollow body of a once mighty man, left on a gurney in hospice care. We soon got to the Caminada Bridge, the arch that seven hundred other kayakers would be fishing around the next day for Ride the Bull 6. As we crested the concrete and steel leviathan of the pass, I had to do a double take. The parking lot of Bridgeside Marina was transformed from shells and dirt to metal and plastic. Every inch of the area was covered in trucks, trailers, and kayaks and paddleboards of all kinds and flavors. After finding a spot on the other end of the island, Alli and I made our way toward the throngs of jerseys, Columbia dress shirts, and green colored t’s sporting the logo of the tournament. We meandered through the smell of freshly boiled shrimp and booze. Lines of fellow anglers were queued to get their captains bags full of goodies or to grab a beer from the open bar.
Immediately I was found by my friend Erin Sullivan of Muddy Water Paddle Company. She ran up to both of us and gave us both tight hugs. In her wake was Randy Lachey, a paddleboard guru and a god of the surf manifested in a bronze, long haired god. We all shook hands, exchanged hellos, and talked about that the evening would hold. Our group ate plates of hot, fresh boiled shrimp. Everywhere, voices chatted about our hobby and lifestyle. My good friend Jason Austin, a veteran and saved soul courtesy of Heroes on the Water, chatted with the chapter head. Jeff Archer, owner of Muddy Water and paddleboard expert, handled raffle tickets for a YOLOBoard Yak, one of the less expensive but still amazing, paddleboards provided by the brand. After a beer for me and a margarita for Allison we were approached by Benton Parrott. Already buzzed (as all three of us were), our jokes and laughs were loud and heard by all around us. Russ Pylant, Truth Reels rep and deckhand for the famous Peace Marvel, came up next and talked to us briefly. More people talked to us for periods of time, including one of the former winners of the Calmwater Film Festival Captain Casey Brunning.
The microphone became alive when the captains meeting for Ride the Bull 6 started. All of the rules and the boundaries were laid out plain as day for anyone who didn’t know. Then came the big shock: an announcement that left not an eye dry in the audience. Ride the Bull had been the brainchild of Danny and Kristen Wray, who had done more for kayak anglers in Louisiana. They had pushed for a public kayak launch to be built on the island, which was completed in short order. Built by the Wildlife and Fisheries station, it had since served the kayak fishing community very well. I had launched from and fished successfully from there quite a few times. At this very touching event, it was announced that the public launch was being dedicated to that amazing husband and wife, being called the Danny and Kristen Wray Public Kayak Launch. We all applauded such an amazing accomplishment.
The sun dipped down, and the Calmwater Film Festival began. People turned to the projector and watched the films that were submitted. Laughs, shouts, and cheers would erupt during the videos from the actions and fish caught by the creators. The big winner of the festival was Benton Parrott’s video, winning him a new GoPro Hero 4. Cheers rang out once more as people began to fill out to prepare for the coming morning. And what a morning it would be….
Saturday August 15th, 2015
My music was low tempo, deep tuned metal, slowly pumping me up as I watched the sun slowly crest the horizon line. The anticipation was tangible in the confines of the Explorer. I was nervous, as I always am any time I go near Caminada Pass. The Pass can be a very dangerous place, full of sharks, bacteria, and boaters. Every time someone goes in, there is a chance someone was going to get hurt, or worse. I pulled into Wakeside, one of the three launch spots for the day’s festivities; the other two being Bridgeside Marina and Elmer’s Island. By the main bulkhead I saw my partner in crime for the morning: Rob Bergeron. A fellow fly fisherman and duck hunter, I had brought my Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 for him to use. Rob was busy cast netting some cut mullet for him and our mutual buddy Scotty to use. We caught up, got the kayak and YOLO Board set up, and very quickly we set off.
The paddle across the Pass was a gauntlet of kayakers, chase boats, and fishing lines. With a strong north wind and an incoming tide, keeping on course was tough. Once Rob gave the word, we both dropped our anchors into the mud, chucked out bait, and let the fun begin. Around us, kayakers and canoes set up camp. Quite a few were even coming dangerously close to my paddleboard. If my line were to go off, I would be in trouble: either their anchor would be cut by the mono, or my fish would pull free. But that would prove to not be a concern: after three hours of getting bumped by kayaks, tossed by growing ground swells, and jamming ambient music, I didn’t get a single nibble. Even the catfish weren’t interested in eating my crab. The Facebook post from the tournament flooded my news feed as I waited for a bite. By 8 am, there were already nine redfish on the board.
Around 10 am, I decided I had had enough and was going to try to find a new spot to fish. Unfortunately, that would be my worst decision of the day. Rob had long since moved onto another spot further up the pass, closer to the beach. I paddled closer towards Bridgeside, all the while battling larger and larger ground swells, some reaching almost a foot high. Then…. It happened. I stood up for a second to stretch my back, and as I stood my board turned sideways against the waves, and in a moment ripped from The Perfect Storm, I was thrown overboard by the wave. In the mess of anger, depression, and fear, I had lost one of my rods and reels and almost lost my shoes. I managed to get back on my board and took a second to get my head together. Ok Schouest, I thought to myself, its getting bad out here. Get the hell to shore and reassess the situation. With the waves and wind, a twenty minute paddle took close to forty. Once I hit the beach, I decided to take a break from everything and relax by the Muddy Water gang. As I began walking I ran into Jared with his new toy: an amphibious drone. The bearded boarder worked the controls of his toy and GoPro like an expert, getting a handful of footage of the pass. Or at least as much as he could with the wind preventing the drove from much forward motion.
I waddled up to the main pavilion, trying my phone as I walked. The Salt Water had claimed another victim. I sighed, found Randy running the booth, and decided I’d spend the rest of the day helping push the brand and business. Using Jared’s phone, I called Alli and let her know what had happened. The sweetheart she was, she laughed about it and told me it was ok, and she’d be there in a little while. I thanked Jared and decided to check the food provided for us. The workers had slaved over a giant pot to produce an awesome jambalaya for us to gorge ourselves on. Two bowls of the stuff and a Coke later, I was finally rested and recovered. Very soon after, a boat came in with a paddleboard on the back: it was one of the chase boats carrying Erin. The current had picked up momentum and the poor dear needed help getting in. I and Randy helped get her gear offloaded as more kayakers came in, seeking shelter from the grueling conditions.
Updates on the leaderboard were announced over the speakers, sometimes generating applause from the growing crowd. Allison showed up around 12 and helped Randy and I handle the booth. By the end of the selling, we had made almost three grand for Heroes on the Water. Randy and I did a few demonstrations of paddle boarding for interested parties, and even got a few new people actually trying boards. But any excitement that we were having was shattered. We noticed a boat coming in with a familiar looking paddleboard on the back. It was moving in at a good clip, and as it came in, scream of “Medic!” and “Doc up!” were heard. Someone had gotten seriously ill out in the pass. EMTs and first responders were on the scene quickly, as Erin, Randy, and I helped get all the equipment off deck so the pros could work on our friend. Not far from this action, another man went down with heat exhaustion. Fellow fisherman turned and tended to him and started pushing water on him. Our group was abuzz trying to get our handle on the situation. As the action died down, the fishing drew to a close and the last fish were weighed and released from the dock. Water and beer flowed freely around the complex as the results were finally shared. For the second year in a row, a lady angler had beaten over 700 other anglers in taking number one. Jamie Clouatre of St. Amant was her name, and the look on her face standing at the podium was one I will never forget. Prizes of kayaks and cash were handed out for the winners.
As the raffle announcement for the YOLO Board was getting ramped up, Rob finally came and found me. “Dude,” he started, “I hooked up on four bulls, but none were big enough.” I was happy for him. He had placed last year, and I really wanted him to redeem his title this year, but sadly, the competition was tough. Then came the announcement: Dylan Geoffray had won the board. Alli and I cheered, but still pouted that our combined seventy dollars hadn’t come thru for us. Then came the door prizes. Everything from decals to lures to push poles to reels were given out. Allison and my good friend George Hoban Jr. were called to the stage for a push pole and a pack of Rat-L-Traps respectively. Her and I toasted some Covington Rock & Roll beer courtesy of Randy to her victory. Again, the crowd thinned, and I went to talk to Troy about fixing a little issue with my YOLO Board. He took a look at it and immediately said him and his brother Jeff would fix it or replace it. Who can argue with such great customer service?! He all shook hands, hugged, and Alli and I were off to swim, eat, and wind down from the excitement.
I turned my gaze back to the road. My body was sore and my mind had wandered back to the previous day. I was down a phone, down a rod and reel, but I had made new friends and gotten closer to existing ones. Muddy Water Paddle Company had told us they were thankful for all the help over the last two days. Allison had even gotten to get on a board for the first time and feel what its like to glide over the water on a fiberglass gondola.
The results of the tournament were as follows. Congrats to the prize winners at Ride the Bull 6:
Ride the Bull 6
1. Jamie Clouatre, St.Amant, LA 39.18lbs.
2. Ricky Smith, New Iberia, LA 35.50 lbs.
3. Tobby Armand, Fortville, IN 31.36 lbs
4. Derek Perez, Thibodaux, LA. 31.30 lbs.
5. Dwayne Walley, Madison, MS. 30.86 lbs
6. Bob Lestelle, Metarie, LA 30.18 lbs
7. Jason Goodin, Columbia, MO. 28.90 lbs
8 Aaron Breaux, Peirre Part, LA. 27.92 lbs
9. Daniel Wanko, Raceland, LA. 27.88 lbs.
10. Sean Green, Covington, LA. 27.80 lbs
Winner: Team Dirty Hookers:
Jacob Soileau, Cody Acosta, Travis Clement, Mike Bogdan & Aaron Breaux
Lady Angler: Jaime Clouatre
Jr. Angler: Conner Cook
Biggest Red fish from a paddle board: James Archer
Yolo paddle board raffle winner: Dylan Geoffray
I decided that though the tournament is one that I have loved all the years Ive fished it, I was not going to go into the Pass anymore. The current and the swells had intimidated me, and the fear of getting tangled in dozens of fishing lines had won: I had decided to stay at the Muddy Water booth next year and help them out rather than fish. If I could win someone else over to the SUP side, I’d consider that a victory as good as winning Ride the Bull.
This year’s Ride the Bull had been huge, fun, and outright exhausting, but next year, it will be sure to grow. As long as Danny and Kristen continue hosting the world’s largest fishing tournament, people will continue to come and get their tug on.
About the Author
Dustin Schouest is a veteran angler from the small disappearing village of Pointe Aux Chenes, La. When not fishing, Dustin is usually found tying flies, editing video, or writing about his adventures from his YOLO Stand Up Paddleboard. He is a member of the Hook1 Fishing Team as well as a member of Team Filthy Anglers.